The True Vine

An ancient Irish expression goes ‘níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin,’ translated as, ‘home is where the heart is.

I often associate ‘home’ with comfort – a place where I can completely be myself. For me, comfort comes in many forms; whether it is sitting on the sofa, watching a bit of Top Gear with my dad ft. a Chinese take-away, or in the form of a cheeky pint from the pav with the gals, after a day of hard work sweating it out in the Berkeley Pit (a personal fave). Or it comes from the absolute notions we indulge in over Christmas: sitting by the fire, bailey’s on tic, listening to my Granda going on about ‘the good ole days.’

Today, we are addressing the final ‘I am’ statement that Jesus made: I am the true vine. In John chapter 15, from which this passage is found, we see the continuation of Jesus comforting His disciples. Jesus knows time is of the essence, as in the preceding chapters Jesus has been arrested, ridiculed and then crucified. The concept of the ‘vine’ would have been familiar to the disciples because in the Old Testament, Israel was often described as the vine – the nation that was deemed the children of God, the nation that God had freed from the Egyptians. The difference is that Jesus claimed to be the true vine:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
John 15: 1-7

The branches

This passage talks of two different types of branches; the branch that bears fruit and the branch that does not. This is symbolic of our own personal choice – to accept Christ or to reject Him. This may seem cut-throat, but when the question turns on how we are going to choose to spend eternity, there is simply no room for in between.

The branch that does not bear fruit

This is the sad reality for the branch that chooses to not live by relying on the vine. The vine in this instance provides the necessary nutrients that the branch needs to survive.

More than that, the branch cannot live without the vine. It has no life source and so it withers away and dies.

To put it bluntly, this choice to not live as part of the vine, is also a choice to not to enjoy life in the love and care that the gardener offers.

The branch that bears fruit

The second type of branch is one that does produce fruit. This branch continually relies on the vine to provide everything it could possibly need. Moreover, this branch is tentatively cared for by the gardener, who reflects our Heavenly Father.

The gardener prunes the branch. The act of pruning involves the removing of the unwanted or withered part of the branch, in order to encourage growth. In this same way, when we chose to accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, God ‘prunes’ us. This sounds a bit weird, but bear with.

See, sometimes life doesn’t make sense; it is confusing and hard and at times even painful. In those times, it isn’t that God is distant or doesn’t care, it is that He wants us to grow in our trust and likeness of Him. He wants a relationship with us.

At the cross we see a suffering God; we see a God that understands. At the cross we see a God who takes the wrath of our sin in order that we may be given grace – God’s riches at Christ’s expense.

The bigger picture

As the gardener sees the whole grapevine, so God sees the bigger picture. He is not limited to a finite human perspective, but rather an infinite, divine perspective that we never will fully be able to comprehend. Yet, when we look at Jesus, when we look at the claims he made, we are given an insight.

God always had a plan. His plan was one of total sacrifice and astonishing love.

The story gets even better…  

We are not left in our sin, shame or guilt. We are made perfect. The gardener sees the whole grapevine; it does not treat the vine and the branches as separate entities. Similarly, God sees us and Jesus as one.

Matthew 3:17 says, “this is my son, in whom I am well pleased.

The gardener delights in his garden and in his handiwork, as does God when He looks as us. He is well pleased with us.

Jesus made many bold, outrageous and audacious claims. The disciples (one of whom wrote this account) were prepared to sacrifice their lives in order to share the claims that Jesus made. I beg you to consider: would people all around the world, even today, be willing to sacrifice their own lives for something that they did not see as truth?

Maybe the thought of church or Jesus makes you ‘uncomfortable.’ You see Him as a outrageous, foolish, a master of trickery. Maybe you find it hard to ever see yourself as being friends with Jesus.

The reality is this – Jesus did not come to make us feel ‘comfortable’. He came to make us realise that we are selfish, power-craving, prideful sinners whose only hope is Him. The answer is not us. The answer is Him.

What if there is something more? What if you simply cannot ignore that nagging feeling in your soul that demands a response. There is a reason we perpetually question, a reason we continually look for things to give us satisfaction; our hearts yearn for something more. Therefore, you are faced with an ultimatum; to accept that Jesus is the true vine or to reject Him.  

Written by Rebekah, Senior Fresh, Law.